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Columbia High To Lose Teachers

Board votes on cuts for 2006-07 school year

By SVERRE BAKKE

The Enterprise

The White Salmon Valley School Board last Thursday voted to eliminate 1.5 full-time equivalent teaching positions at Columbia High School.

Board members Bill Clack, Josie Salka and Kris Kreps approved the "reduction in force" resolution that cuts a 1.0 FTE secondary social studies position and a 0.5 FTE secondary English position from the still-to-be considered 2006-07 budget.

The action comes at a time when the White Salmon Valley School District is experiencing a downturn in student enrollment and a consequent decrease in state general education funding.

Fewer students and less money means the district doesn't need as many teachers in its high school classrooms.

States the resolution: "...the Board of Directors has concluded that for the 2006-2007 fiscal year, financial resources are not reasonably assured to the District to maintain its education program and services substantially at the same level as the current year..."

Planning for the decline in enrollment at Columbia High has been in the works for several months.

Last year, the school board relaxed one CHS graduation requirement by reducing the number of social studies credits needed from four to three.

Board members also called for the restructuring of Columbia's existing two-semester, five-periods-per-day education program.

Under the reorganization plan that goes into effect next school year, CHS will operate five periods per day on a trimester basis. It will do so with fewer teachers instructing fewer students.

Superintendent Dale Palmer projects the school district will start the 2006-07 school year with a budgeted enrollment of 1,075 full-time students (369 elementary, 353 middle school and 353 high school).

"That's the lowest enrollment figure I can remember, and I've been in this district a long time," Palmer said.

The reduction in force affects three teachers directly.

Steve Larsen, the least tenured of CHS's three social studies teachers, will move to Henkle Middle School next year, where he will replace Jeff Lindstrom, who is being let go after four years in White Salmon.

Also affected is English teacher Omar Sankari, who, like Lindstrom, joined the school district faculty in 2002.

In addition to the reduction in force at CHS, district staffing expenses for 2006-07 will decrease through attrition.

For example, the school district will not replace a secondary fitness and health teaching position, an elementary-level teaching position or its director of technology, Palmer said.

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